Diplomatic relations between Russia and Pakistan were established on May 1, 1948, following the agreement reached in New York by Andrei A. Gromyko, the First Deputy Foreign Minister of the USSR, and Sir Zafarullah Khan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan. Shortly, the Embassies of the USSR and Pakistan commenced their functioning in Karachi and Moscow.

There have been several ups and downs in Russia-Pakistan relations because of the dynamics of international politics during the Cold War period. They could not evade the negative effects of tumultuous and complex developments in Afghanistan, in which both the countries happened to be involved in.

Nevertheless, even during the most unfavourable periods, Moscow continued to look for opportunities to expand the dialogue process with Islamabad and render economic assistance to Pakistan. Russia contributed to the development of its oil and gas industry, construction of power stations, and the Pakistan Steel Mills in Karachi in the early 1980s that is still the largest industrial enterprise in the country and the flagship of our friendship.

Today, Pakistan is an important partner of Russia with whom we intend to develop mutually-beneficial cooperation in all fields. Pakistan’s significance is determined by its role in regional politics, its influence in the Muslim world and its geostrategic position. Undoubtedly, both countries face similar threats and challenges to their national security.

In recent years, we have been witnessing steadfast progress in our bilateral relations. The leaders of Russia and Pakistan meet regularly to exchange views on key bilateral, regional and global issues. The official visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to Russia in May 2011 was another milestone in the development of our ties. Then Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s visit to Moscow in February 2012 and, in turn, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s stay in Islamabad in October later in the year gave an added impetus to our mutually-beneficial partnership.

Currently, Russia and Pakistan actively interact in multilateral organisations. The two nations have close positions on a wide range of international problems, including peaceful settlement of disputes, establishment of the multipolar world order, strengthening of the UN’s central role, and supremacy of international law in interstate relations. With Pakistan’s election as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for 2012-2013, the opportunities for mutual cooperation in the international arena have expanded.

Interaction with Pakistan, in the context of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an authoritative international association evolving into an important element of the regional security architecture and cooperation, is of particular importance. We support its aspiration, which now has an observer status, to join the SCO as a full-fledged member.

Further, instability in Afghanistan concerns both countries – Russia and Pakistan. Naturally, we are interested in a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan that is free from terrorism. Russia believes that it is for the Afghans to determine the pace and direction of the settlement, including the national reconciliation process; Pakistan shares such an approach.

Pakistan is one of the states that has suffered the most from terrorism. In the last 10 years, more than 35,000 of its civilians have been killed in the inhuman acts of terror, and 6,000 Pakistani soldiers and officers have sacrificed their lives, while purging their country of extremists whose barbaric actions have nothing to do with the Islamic values and cannot be justified. Russia has and will keep on supporting the counterterrorism efforts of Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the economic dimension of Russian-Pakistani cooperation does not correspond to its potential. We cannot be satisfied either with the existing bilateral trade volume of $540 million or with its structure. The low level of direct business ties and insufficient knowledge of Russian and Pakistani business communities about each other’s capabilities remain to be our weak points. The task for accelerated development of Russia-Pakistan trade and economic ties to take them to a qualitatively new level is set at the highest level. In this regard, hopes are pinned on the Russian-Pakistani Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, whose second session was held in Islamabad in 2012.

Russian business quarters are ready to assist in the implementation of various national power projects in Pakistan, including the reconstruction of Multan-2 and Guddu Thermal Power Stations built with the contribution of Soviet specialists, as well as in the establishment of new hydroelectric and thermal power plants of small and medium production capacity. Our companies can participate in exploring and developing offshore oil and gas fields in Pakistan, besides building underground gas storage facilities and training specialists.

Further, the CASA-1000 project aimed at creating a system to transfer electricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan promises to be of benefit to all parties. Russia is ready to join it and co-invest. Our companies could also help in the TAPI gas pipeline project.

Besides, we intend to promote humanitarian, cultural and scientific ties with Pakistan. An MoU on scientific and technical cooperation, and a three-year programme of cultural and scientific exchanges, which are being worked out by the concerned departments, will afford a robust legal basis for further development of interaction in this area.

The 65-year history of relations between Russia and Pakistan is unique; experience shows that short-term declines between the two countries were always followed by upswings. As the President of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, noted in his recent message to the President of Pakistan, Asif Zardari, on Pakistan Day, “relations between our countries are on the rise.” Mutually-beneficial trade and economic ties are being strengthened, coordination within the UN, SCO and other multilateral structures brings visible results. In addition, the Russian leader reiterated his determination to continue making concerted efforts to expand the constructive dialogue, and promote stability and security in the Eurasian region.

In short, while celebrating the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Russia and Pakistan have a legitimate right to view the prospects of their partnership with optimism. Both countries need to make efforts to strengthen mutually-beneficial cooperation for the benefit of their people, as well as in the interest of regional peace and stability.

    The writer is the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation.